Tuesday, May 8, 2018

First Listen: New Releases for May 4

Just a lot out this week, so we'll do highlights.

Artist: Skating Polly
Album: The Make It All Show
Quick Description: New album from the indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: Skating Polly is similar to Speedy Ortiz in some regards, and they are poised to break out.
Overall Thoughts: I liked Skating Polly’s last effort, which was a sort of car crash of musical sounds and styles that had me hooked. Even still, it wasn’t without its flaws, but that was more than okay – it was still a great listen. This new album feels a lot more organized and structured, and the result (while a little less chaotic) is something that really shows growth as a band without losing the sort of manic quality that sets them apart.
Recommendation: A favorite this week.

Artist: Parker Milsap
Album: Other Arrangements
Quick Description: New album from a favorite here.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for a little more adult alternative in your life.
Overall Thoughts: We’ve liked him so far, but this feels very adult alternative, and his voice has a real Paul McCarthey flair to it on this effort that just sat the wrong way. Not a bad listen, but definitely not the compelling effort I had been hoping for.
Recommendation: Maybe give it a listen, but it's far from essential.

Artist: Jessica Risker
Album: I See You Among the Stars
Quick Description: Light, airy folk music with a distinct sound.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something more along the lines of early Marissa Nadler.
Overall Thoughts: At only eight tracks, this mini-album feels less like a complete piece and more like a sampling, but if this is the Jessica Risker sample pack, sign me up for a subscription. It’s stark, distant folky music with a super-compelling feel to it that reminds me of why I fell for the music of people like Laura Veirs and the like early on.
Recommendation: Really solid listen.

Artist: Trampled by Turtles
Album: Life is Good on the Open Road
Quick Description: New album from the favorites of the newgrass set.
Why You Should Listen: TBT is finally finding its footing.
Overall Thoughts: This is a group that, for a time, was bluegrass for people who weren’t so into bluegrass. They’ve toned down their sound a bit, and while it’s still not traditional at all, it is definitely more accessible, and I feel like this might be the first album in a few years where it’s truly come together in a cohesive way. Really enjoyed this listen, and I see myself heading back to it sooner rather than later.
Recommendation: A must-listen.

Artist: Kitten Forever
Album: Semi-Permanent
Quick Description: Noisy, sloppy punk of the best kind.
Why You Should Listen: You need a little angst in your afternoon.
Overall Thoughts: I unabashedly love this group, and it’s just loud and brash and fun the way this type of music should be. It’s not going to work for everyone, and the presentation/band name almost feels like they could be dismissed as some sort of adorable Whirlwind Heat or Oh-OK, but they deserve more than that. This is a solid, enjoyable listen and one of my favorites this week.
Recommendation: You should make time for this.

Artist: Joel Levi
Album: Joel Levi
Quick Description: Perfectly cromulent alt-country.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for that early-2000s era alt-country revival.
Overall Thoughts: Joel Levi absolutely comes from the Ryan Adams school of alt-country, and it’s pretty solid. He’s not reinventing the wheel, and perhaps we can fault this record a bit for not taking many (if any) risks, but that's not a terrible thing overall. It's a decent record, it just won't blow your mind.
Recommendation: Worth finding some time if you're into this.

Artist: Belly
Album: Dove
Quick Description: The highly-anticipated return of the early-1990s alt-rock act.
Why You Should Listen: Truly, we shouldn't have to hype you up for this.
Overall Thoughts: Belly was great. We all know and accept this. Reunion records can be a crapshoot, though, and this one? A winner by all accounts. I was on board early on with "Shiny One," and the whole record just delivers. Great return, great entry point, great everything.
Recommendation: Nearly my album of the week. Rock solid.

Artist: Frank Turner
Album: Be More Kind
Quick Description: Latest from the English folkie.
Why You Should Listen: If he's been a little too aggressive for you so far, this might be the record for you.
Overall Thoughts: We're fans here, but Ken is about ready to jump off the bandwagon. For me, this album lost me at "Make America Great Again," not because it's a protest song or because I have any issue with the message, but because this is such a bland, on-the-nose attempt at protest music that it just feels sanitary. Folk punks shouldn't be boring, but I fear Frank Turner has turned a corner.
Recommendation: It's unfortunately not worth it.

Quick Hits:

* Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace: Not the sort of sound you’d expect from a band with this name, but it is kind of a messy rock effort that some will love but didn’t work for me.
* Matt and Kim – Almost Everyday: They have always tried to balance the indie with the big sound of the moment, and this does the same, but I really felt this didn’t work. Weird fake drops, odd electronic stuff. It has its moments, but…
* Venetian Snares + Daniel Lanois – Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois: Weird, ambient, off-center electronic music. Has a movie score feel to it. Kind of an unexpected turn from Lanois, perhaps best known for his production work with U2.
* Leon Bridges – Good Thing: We enjoyed Bridges’ debut, and this is a great modern soul record that deserves a more mainstream look than Bridges has been getting so far. Rock solid.
* Shakey Graves - Can't Wake Up: An interesting shift in musical tone for Shakey Graves. I don't know how well this will hold up, but if you're a fan you owe it to yourself to give this a try even if you don't end up liking it.

Other Highlights:

* Lake Street Dive - Free Yourself Up
* Horse Feathers - Appreciation
* Black Moth Super Rainbow - Panic Blooms
* Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
* Holy Now - Think I Need the Light


* Johnnyswim and Drew Holcomb - Goodbye Road
* Mr. Tophat - A Memoir From the Youth

Also Out:

* The Goldberg Sisters - Home: A Nice Place to Visit
* Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man
* Missy Higgins - Solastalgia
* D.O.A. - Fight Back
* Tove Stryke - Sway

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